*FTR: Though this post originally went live at 3:07pm PST June 3rd, as late as 9:22am PST on June 4th, formal/official reports stated Coach Wooden is in “gravely ill” condition while paradoxically “resting comfortably.” That said, both Bill Walton and Bill Sharman spoke of Coach in the past tense. “We said goodbye today,” Sharman said. “I think he realized it.
John Wooden: UCLA Coach, Teacher, Legend and Wonderful Human Being
(In Memoriam, 1910 – 2010)
As a UCLA alum (Class of 2000), I was privileged to meet Coach Wooden at Pauley Pavilion on one instance, where he handled himself with the class, integrity & elegance for which he is known. I didn’t get more than a “nice to meet you” and a (surprisingly) firm handshake, but even during that brief instance it was evident that this man was genuine, sincere & a good person.
I was also fortunate enough to be able to experience the Scully & Wooden. . .for the Kids with my father (The Count), who presented me with the tickets as a gift. . .and a cherished evening, as both Vin and Coach regaled the audience with anecdotes of their wonderful careers, philosophies & outlooks. I remember Bill Walton’s video tribute to Wooden, where he most remembered coming onto the UCLA campus as a highly-touted freshman ready to be Big Man on Campus, wondering what the legendary Coach would have him do first. . .which ended up being an entire session dedicated to putting on his socks & tying his shoes properly.
More notably, the moderator (TJ Simers) asked the question, If heaven exists, what would they like God to say when they arrive at the pearly gates? Wooden’s response? “Well done,” sparking laughter, applause & a knowing & collective wink from the rapt audience.
Now that the unfortunate circumstances are indeed upon us, I think that God will consider that an understatement.
Here’s to Coach Wooden, R.I.P.